- A new unpublished study conducted by Lightspeed, commissioned by Rubbermaid Commercial Products, found that workplace sustainability and recycling is more important to millennials than previous generations. Roughly 90% of millennials surveyed said they consider a company's sustainability important, as compared to 84% of those surveyed Generation X and 77% of baby boomers.
- Almost one in 10 millennials said they would be willing to quit a job if their employer wasn't sustainable. This is seen as relevant because more millennials plan to change jobs within the next two years than other generations.
- The study also said that 80% of millennials believe it is their employer's responsibility to provide a recycling system and 62% said they would recycle more if their workplace had more access points. More than two-thirds of millennials claimed they would give up social media for a week if all of their coworkers recycled.
Now that millennials make up the largest share of the U.S. workforce, employers are becoming more intent on catering to their preferences and aligning with their values. According to the study, a majority of millennials are interested in helping their companies become more sustainable and think their ideas will be heard to make that happen. Within the study, 83% of millennials said they recycle at home though only 77% recycled at work, showing that it may be harder to do.
In some cases the recycling options may vary depending on where people live or work and whether the two occur in the same municipality. It's not uncommon for there to be different recycling systems across city lines, or even within the same city itself. New York has recently adjusted its rules to require recycling access for the same set of materials in both locations and other cities have begun making similar moves. Explaining the fine points of why different locations may be picked up by different entities, that could take recyclables to different places, quickly becomes complicated.
Research has shown that more needs to be done to help clarify all of this. Last year, a survey from the Pew Research Center found that recycling still isn't a cultural norm for many people — in some cases because of confusion over the process — and another survey from Keep America Beautiful found that millennials were more distrustful of recycling systems than any other generation. Ongoing research in Austin, TX is exploring the possibility of more targeted messaging that recognizes the motivating factors and questions for different groups of people.
At the same time, work continues to get children from grade school to college excited about recycling and the industry sees them as a growing customer base. How all of these beliefs will evolve as the new generation becomes more prominent remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. Eventually more millennials will have to become acquainted with recycling because they will be the ones running the industry itself.